Thomas Jefferson hockey starts slow in win over Serra
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Many have tried, but not many teams have been able to slow down the offensive machine that has been the Thomas Jefferson hockey team.
The Jaguars went into Thursday's game against Serra Catholic averaging more than six goals, including a pair of double-digit goal-scoring contests earlier in the season.
But midway through the PIHL Class A Section 1 contest at Bethel Park Bladerunners, Serra held the Jaguars to a mere goal and was in prime upset position.
Then, it all fell apart.
A turnover by Serra's Jonathan Henschel on to the stick of one of the PIHL's leading scorers Zack Uhlyar turned into a 2-1 lead, and Thomas Jefferson never looked back.
The Jaguars scored five goals over the final 25 minutes to hand Serra its third straight loss, 6-3.
“They are solid defensively,” Thomas Jefferson coach Bill Crousey said.
“They have been good defensively for a long time, and that hasn't changed. They are hard to crack. When you have opportunities to score, you have to take advantage of them. It is not easy to score against them.”
Thomas Jefferson improved to 9-5 and jumped six points ahead of second-place Serra (6-6, 12 points).
“We had the game at the pace we wanted it,” Serra coach Brian Boehm said. “We had a mistake here and there, and it cost us.”
Uhlyar scored his 23rd and 24th goals of the season and finished with three points. Matthew Bowers added two goals and an assist, while goalie Nick Ripepi won his ninth game of the year as he turned away 36 of 39 shots.
Serra got two goals from freshman Roman Kraemer and three points from Tyler Speis and Nicholas Vacsulka.
Ian Ritche took the loss as he faced 34 shots and made 29 saves.
“That's a good team,” Crousey said. “We are happy with this win.”
Serra got on the board early in the first period when Kraemer knocked it past Ripepi at 5:23.
Thomas Jefferson answered with a power-play goal at 12:12 when Nick Tamburi rang a wrister off the post and behind Ritchie to make it 1-1.
It remained that way until the second when TJ put two goals together with a span of 1:22 to make it 3-1.
Uhlyar skated down the left wing on a 2-1 and fired a wrist shot over Ritchie's blocker and off the crossbar and into the next to give Thomas Jefferson a 2-1 lead.
A little more than a minute later, TJ lit the lamp again.
Brady Parkinson picked up a loose puck in front of the next and slid it past Ritchie for a 3-1 Jaguars' lead.
“The one thing we don't have is a good transition game,” Boehem said.
“We don't have to be a lot more focused defensively.”
TJ put the game away 10 seconds into the final period with a shorthanded goal by Bowers. Brad Delenko fired a shot that Ritchie couldn't corral.
The puck came to Bowers in the slot who buried past Ritchie to make it 4-1.
Just 34 seconds later, TJ struck again with Uhlyar ripping a wrist shot from the left circle over the blocker of Ritchie for a 5-1 lead.
“It was a huge start for us in the third,” Crousey said. “We still have a long way to go. We have to play them again and have some other tough games coming up.”
Serra added two late goals before TJ scored an empty net goal.
“We are young, and we are getting better,” Boehm said. “This TJ team is very good, and we were right with them.”
Mark Kaboly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @MarkKaboly_Trib.
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